Universal Hip Hop Museum, director facing backlash for ties with accused pedophile Afrikaa Bambaataa

The rap pioneer Bambaataa is alleged of using his Bronx home as well as producer Zulu Nation headquarters to sexually abuse and traffic numerous minors from 1991 to 1995.
Photo Scott Gries/Getty Images

A sexual abuse advocacy group called Hip Hop Stands With Survivors is calling for the resignation of Universal Hip Hop Museum’s executive director Rocky Bucano and the end to taxpayer funding for the museum, due to its affiliation with Afrika Bambaataa over allegations he sexually abused and trafficked a minor.

The Universal Hip Hop Museum has been hailed by Bronx politicos and Mayor Eric Adams as a future tourist hub and is slated to receive $9.75 million in city taxpayer funds, on top of the more than $30 million that the organization has received in federal, state and city funding since the nonprofit museum’s inception in 2014.

The rap pioneer Bambaataa is alleged of using his Bronx home as well as his group Zulu Nation’s headquarters to sexually abuse and traffic numerous minors from 1991-1995. In 2021, Bambaataa — real name Lance Taylor — and self-proclaimed hip-hop awareness group Universal Zulu Nation were sued and accused of sex trafficking and prostituting a 12-year-old boy to older men during that four-year span.

The victim claims he met Taylor in 1991 and became a member of the Zulu Nation security as a child.

The victim, listed in court documents as John Doe, was able to file a lawsuit under the New York’s Child Victims Act, which was signed into New York state law in 2019. The law, which expired in August 2021, opened a one-time look back window for survivors to file civil lawsuits seeking compensation for the sexual abuse they suffered as children.

The Universal Hip Hop Museum has been hailed by Bronx politicos and Mayor Eric Adams, as a future tourist hub and is slated to receive $9.75 million in taxpayer funds. Rocky Bucano, fourth from right, is pictured alongside hip-hop dignitaries and elected officials. Photo Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Allegations of sexual abuse against Taylor go as far back as the 1970s. Bambaataa is often credited as one of the leading voices that clamored for a physical museum to commemorate the borough’s status as the foundation of hip hop.

Hassan Campbell and other men, whose names were not disclosed, also testified alleging child sexual abuse against Bambaata, claiming the rapper had multiple locations where he had sex with underage boys, including at 1609 E. 174th St., which is public housing.

“Bam came to power during the crack era. Your mother’s on dope, your father’s on crack. This made it easy for him to pick his victims … and his apartment had everything a child could want,” Campbell, who attended Zulu Nation meetings, said in court testimony.

Taylor, did not appear nor answer the complaint filed on Aug. 4, 2021, which led to John Doe winning a default judgment.

In January, ahead of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman convened to announce $5 million in federal funding for the museum, in an effort to help preserve and celebrate hip-hop music’s history and influence over American culture.

A city hall spokesperson told the Bronx Times that they were assured by Hip Hop Museum had cut ties with Bambaataa when the allegation surfaced in 2016.

“Any form of sexual abuse is reprehensible, and we condemn any individual or organization involved with these acts. After allegations surfaced, the Universal Hip Hop Museum assured the administration that they cut ties with the Universal Zulu Nation and that Afrika Bambaataa has not had a role at the Universal Hip Hop Museum since 2016,” a City Hall spokesperson said.  “Our administration stands with survivors of sexual abuse.”

The Bronx Times reached out to the Universal Hip Hop Museum and is awaiting response.

Bucano is a former music executive and hip-hop record label owner who became executive director when the Universal Hip Hop Museum was founded in 2014.

Hip Hop Stands With Survivors said it has been surveilling the Universal Hip Hop Museum and its relationship with Bambaataa since news of the alleged child sexual abuse became public in 2016. The group was planning a rally on the steps of City Hall Monday morning.

“Hip Hop Stands With Survivors is demanding Rocky Bucano’s resignation and for the (museum) to sever all ties to Bucano, Afrika Bambaataa and his enablers, the Zulu Nation, and its members,” said Leila Wills, a reporter who wrote a letter on behalf of the group. “Our group is prepared to launch our campaign and will not cease efforts until Bucano resigns and the museum’s promotion and hiring of the Zulu Nation ends or the (museum) stops receiving public dollars.”

According to the group, Bambaataa spoke openly about “having a museum” and they allege Bucano could not have made it past the first step to making the museum a reality without Bambaataa.

“It is our position that he and the Zulu Nation exert undue influence over Bucano,” said Wills in the letter.

This article was updated on March 27 at 3 p.m. to include a comment from City Hall.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.